Many would remember vintage Eldon Toys for their Plastic models or many Slot Car sets. Many more would recognize one of the Japanese toys that they re-branded as their own like “Billy Blastoff“. Manufactured by Tomy, Billy was an overachieving 4″ figure of a boy who housed a motor to drive his many accessories and his insatiable desire to be the best at everything. Saddled with name “Blastoff”, Billy was destined to earn his keep in space.
Child Space Labor
There were several space themed sets for Billy. He was a lone Space Scout set or working at the Space Base set or some other child labor scenario. Unable to interact with regular folks his only friend was Robby the Robot who could be found in some sets with Billy, as well as being sold separately. When your sole source of companionship is a subservient machine it may hinder a child’s development and enforce poor people skills. After the U.S. Moon landing with no second act to follow it up, interest started to wane in space exploration. Particularly entitled, dismissive child astronauts.
After his space service Billy returned to a world that had no use for space scouts let alone hear his endless stories of Robbie and space life. His Space Scout license was very attractive to the airline industry and he was quickly hired. Unfortunately after a few “incidents” with co-workers and customers ordering them around like robots, Billy was moved from passenger flights to the flying freight set complete with Hi-Lo, cargo and cargo scanner. Billy soon grew bored with his twice a day Dallas/Fort Worth to Chicago run and one one day abruptly walked off the tarmac with plane full of freight ready to go. Billy then drifted in to a construction set, complete with bulldozer, dump truck and jackhammer. Not long after, longing for the excitement of risking his short life he became a Fire Fighter set complete with Ladder truck, Pumper truck and Chief truck. But Billy didn’t find his calling until his Scuba Diving set, complete with car, trailer, boat, spear gun and underwater camera. Billy was never comfortable in an atmosphere that supported people. It was only in the cold, quiet darkness of space or the depths of the seas where Billy felt truly alive.
Even with the attempts at broadening the line with a Billy Blastoff board game and a Billy Blastoff Bubble Popper Pistol, it wasn’t enough to sustain his popularity. I believe he was a casualty of the new era of action figures ushered in with the 1972 release of Mego’s Superheroes. Known name brand figure’s with backstories. Figures like Evel Knievel or The 6 million dollar man. Not some no name jack-of-all-trades child. Billy Blastoff had a 4-5 year run, not too bad for a character driven toy without any other media tie in.
My wife Melissa and I are the Vintage Garage Chicago. She takes care of Biz, I write stuff like this.
“A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one.”
The 2017 Vintage Garage dates are April 23, May 21, June 19 , July 17, August 21, September 18, and October 16. There will be 100 vendors offering cool vintage and antique pieces every 3rd Sunday, April to October. Vintage Garage is located at 5051 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640. Hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with a $5 admission. Official website is www.vintagegaragechicago.com.